Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm looking forward to Wednesday's speech at the Social Media Strategies for DoD and Government conference. I'll be talking about how the Air Force is using new media to deliver messages and how our aim is to get all Airmen involved in telling the AF story from their perspective.
With PA resources continuing to dwindle and, with what's left being syphoned off to deployments and new stateside taskings, it's important that all Airmen are equipped with the ROI (Rules of Information) to engage about the Air Force with their friends and colleagues through communication vehicles like Facebook, blogs and Twitter. We need them out there communicating. I'm often asked how many PAs do we need in the AF, I tell them 331,700. Every Airman truly now has the ability to be a communicator.
I plan on explaining my theory that we're in a communication revolution and that the revolution has to an exploding communication environment where we all, not just the media, choose when, where and how we get information.
The Air Force story may not be compelling. We had a meeting and from that told a couple of people to figure out what's going on and then throw us in the deep-end of the pool. We've been swimming ever since. We've published a new media guidebook to help people get engaged and we've added courses at Defense Information School.
Many still feel threatened by new media. I think it's akin to talking to your neighbor on your front porch. With new media we can engage in conversations and communicate a message just like with talk with the person next door and share information.
I'm looking forward to a great conference.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Voices Heard

Iranians using Twitter, Facebook and You Tube have gotten the attention of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Please see my blog entry from a couple of days ago on this subject: Tehran: Terror in Terabytes.
In their press conference on Thursday, June 18, Secretary Gates said that New Media capabilities are a major blow to authoritarian governments.
"It's a huge win for freedom, around the world, because this monopoly of information is no longer in the hands of the government," said Secretary Gates.
Admiral Mullen said that it was important for commanders to be connected, siting his own Facebook page as an example.
"I think communicating that way and moving information around that way -- whether it's administrative information or information in warfare -- is absolutely critical," stated the Chairman.
It was an excellent press conference. The transcript is at the following link: http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4435
The video is at the DefenseLink homepage.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tehran: Trouble in Terabytes

At the Air Force Worldwide PA Conference in March I opened the conference with the following line: Revolutions don't start at the top. For better or worse, that's where they end.

Far be it from me to categorize what's going on in Tehran now as a revolution but I think it's important to examine one of the reasons why protests continue to occur in Iran's capital over the recent elections.

It's being reported today in several media outlets that wired Iranians are using Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Flickr to fan the flames in opposition of the contested election.

Here's my favorite paragraph from a story in ynet.com describing what's going on in Iran: In an interview to al-Jazeera, Saeed Shariati, one of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reformist opponents, said: "For us the internet is like the air force in a military operation. It bombards the enemy's outposts and lays the ground for the invasion of the infantries – our activists, to win the battle."

The Iranian government quickly blocked Facebook and Twitter so the activists weapon of choice became the text message. More than 110 million were sent before the government figured out they needed to shut-down that capability too.

Now they're using photos and video taken at the violent rallies and moving them via phone to web sites outside the country which are then being posted quickly. Their efforts are no doubt having an impact on world opinion.

As I've stated before, the technology we have today has given "everyman" a voice that's louder and stronger than ever before. It will be interesting how the events in Tehran play out--for better or worse.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Operating in the Gray--Does VOA=VOT?

One of our greatest challenges as military communication professionals is what I call "operating in the gray." In some ways "operating in the gray," is our bread and butter, is where the rubber meets the road, is what we bring to the fight. Bad cliches aside, "operating in the gray" is essential for military communicators because few others either want to or are trained to operate in the gray.

So much of what we do in the Air Force is black and white. We're checklist driven for good reason. Order enables execution and minimizes mistakes.

But the communication mission is mostly gray. The successful PA develops "gray vision" and from that gains the credibility to provide trusted counsel to leaders. "Gray vision" enables you to know when you need to respond to a media report or just leave it alone. "Gray vision" enables you to predict the reaction and bounce of an issue and advise leaders about taking the next step. Because they're in the gray with you--and you have "gray vision"--they need you to lead them out of it.

We have to understand that we operate in the gray. We have to get comfortable navigating through the gray and we have to know when to bring others into the gray. Unfortunately, not all PAs get the gray concept. Others can see the gray but they have no desire to walk into it. And, of course, there is the other extreme--those who only want to operate in the gray. That's admirable but very tactical. You have to be able to see clearly where you're going first, in order to step into the gray and be successful.

If you've gotten this far in the blog and you're thinking I'm nuts--let me give you an example. Washington Times reporter Eli Lake had an exclusive story on June 2 titled Voice of Taliban On VOA Queried. The story was about a State Department Inspector General review on the Voice of America interviewing a top Pakistani Taliban leader for one of their programs. The interview was on the Pashto-language VOA service known as Deewa Radio.

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican, raised the concerns about the interview to the State Department. Rep. Kirk is credited as being a strong proponent of Deewa Radio. He, however, didn't see the wisdom in U.S. taxpayer dollars being spent for what he called, "...subsidizing fee air-time for al-Qaeda terrorists and Taliban leaders."

It's not the first time VOA has been in hot water over interviewing Taliban leaders. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Deewa Radio interviewed Talibal leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. While the interview sparked controversy, Ms. Spozhmai Maiwandi who manages the Pashto-service, said she thought it was important to ask Mullah Omar "...whether he was willing to let all Afghans suffer by continuing to harbor al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden."

Now that I've walked you into the "gray," please consider these questions and provide me your thoughts:
When is it reasonable for us to communicate with the enemy in a public forum?
What can we learn about the enemy when we interview them and how can/should we use that information?
Is it possible to deliver a message while interviewing the enemy and then broadcasting a story?
Is what I'm describing too much like information operations and not enough like journalism?

Welcome to the gray. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I'm often asked, "What are you going to do after you retire?"

Well, there is no doubt in my mind I'll do something in the communication field. There's no doubt that's what I'll do because it's the only thing I know how to do.

I have thought about reinventing myself but I really don't have the skill to fix things or the will count things. Plus, I believe my PA rule #9 applies, "Every job is a PA job," so why bother trying to do something else.

What I have learned is that we have developed ourselves well professionally. Our maturity that comes from being given responsibility and authority at an early age--that continues to increase through our careers--is unmatched anywhere else. Also--and just as critical--the plethora of issues we get the opportunity to handle forges our PR skills and credibility. Our mission is more critical than ever and we have the right preparation and problem-solving abilities to handle anything that's thrown at us.

I'm all for change when it's needed. I even hope I can recognize when change is necessary. But for now I'd rather continue to help communicate reinventions.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Assessing Research

It seems to me we have a tendency to overlook the tools of research and assessment in the classic PR model: Research, Plan, Execute, Assess.

We're fortunate at SAF/PA to have very sharp Airmen in our Plans division. They provide a robust research and assessment capability that becomes the foundation for executing many of our communication strategies and tactics.

One piece of research we've been using for the past several weeks is from the Pew News Interest Index. Pew examines "News Awareness by the American Public."

Pew conducts a national survey of adults asking them what is the one story they followed the most closely in the news over the last week. In professional research parlance the question falls under the category of "unaided recall." That means the respondents don't have a choice of options to pick from--they have to remember on their own what stories they paid attention to during the last week.

For example, since mid-April, the economy and Swine Flu have dominated the results; between 30-to-40 percent of the respondents listed those as the story they most closely watched. On a graph, our Plans division then charts out the military stories respondents indicated. Since April, issues such as CIA interrogations, Iraq, Pakistan, detainee abuse photos, Iran and the terror debate made the chart. None of them scored more than 11 percent in the survey and most were down around the 5-to-6 percent levels. The pirate issue with the Maersk Alabama was the lone exception with 34 percent of the respondents saying they most closely followed that story from 17-20 April.

What this tells me is that most folks outside of Washington, D.C. don't really think about the things we focus a lot of effort on here at the Pentagon. So, how should we use this information? What I think we need to learn from this information is determining what our real target
audience(s) should be for a given issue, determine how that audience likes to receive their information and then communicate with them accordingly. Gone are the days when a communication plan lists audiences as Media, Congress, Influencers, Great American Public. Not everybody has time to deal with our issues. We have have to find out who does and who cares, and ensure they get our messages.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A'Twitter at the Front

Twitter has found its way to the front-lines in Afghanistan. Check out AP reporter Jason Straziuso's piece today about how U.S. forces are using Twitter to inform audiences about battlefield results. Straziuso's article ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer and was carried in the Early Bird.

Straziuso reports that U.S. forces are using Twitter to give instant battlefield updates, usually hours before official news releases are sent to the media. He quotes Col. Greg Julian, the top military spokesperson in Afghanistan as saying, "There's an entire audience segment that seeks its news from alternative means outside traditional news sources, and we want to make sure we're engaging them as well."

Military forces in Afghanistan are also using other social networking sources to get information out quickly. As Straziuso's report says, the Taliban have primarily conducted an information war while U.S. forces have lagged behind. The use of social media is a direct tactic to counter Taliban misinformation about the status of the war.

We entrust our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines with great responsibility and authority over the lives of their people and with the best weapons to conduct battlefield missions. They do so under clear Rules of Engagement (ROE). As the ramp-up of forces continues in Afghanistan, we need to consider arming them with the ability to quickly communicate and with ROI (Rules of Information) to win the information battles as well.

Thank You.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I really don't know what happened. I kept saying I'll get to it tomorrow. One tomorrow turned into 65. I'm glad to say the tomorrows and the blogpause is over. I hope there's someone out there still following.

Here's what's kept me busy over the last couple of months.

* We implemented the new policy that allows media coverage at Dover AFB for the return of our fallen service members. It started on April 5 with media covering the return of Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Meyers from Hopewell, Va. Nearly 40 media representatives from 18 different media outlets covered the return of SSgt. Meyers. Since then the numbers of media covering returns have dropped off significantly. I'm very proud of all the Air Force PA professionals who have taken part in ensuring the media operation for the returns is done professionally and with respect to the dignified transfer. They have gotten nothing but the highest of praise from AF leadership.

* We announced the preferred basing alternatives for Global Strike Command and the new Cyber Numbered Air Force. These announcements are but one step in the process of securing a new home for these commands. The important aspect for me personally is that we're watching history being made for our Air Force. Global Strike Command is a direct result of the reinvigoration of the nuclear enterprise in the Air Force and a testament to the great work being done at all levels to ensure our nuclear mission is safe, sound and secure. The Cyber NAF will be on the cutting-edge of cyber operations for the U.S., defending important computer systems from attack.

* We also welcomed our new director of Public Affairs, Col Les Kodlick. Col Kodlick is a career PA. His first priority is resources and he's carrying on the fight to properly staff our career field in this dynamic communication environment. He brings the freshness of the field and the experience of a tried and true professional to the job. I know we'll be doing more with Les.

Again, the blogpause is over. I look forward to future postings.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Leading the Revolution one Speech at a Time

One of the favorite parts of my job is getting to speak to a lot of groups about the PA mission. Many times the groups are other PAs and sometimes the groups are future commanders or others taking classes and there is a communication block on the schedule.

Today I'll speak to a joint class of future PA officers and then I'll do an AF-unique class. I plan on telling the joint class that now is the right time to be getting into our business. Communication expertise is a critical asset and force multiplier for commanders. We have some cultural challenges across the military concerning communication--but it's up to us to start breaking those down. Now is the perfect time because the communication environment is going through revolutionary change--we need to be the experts on how to deal with that change and how communication helps the commander accomplish the mission.

Wednesday's F-22 crash is a perfect example of the changes we've seen. There were about 900 news stories on the crash. Most papers picked up the AP and Reuters reports. But there were also thousands of blog entries and Twitter messages concerning the crash. People getting their information from each other is the new deal in global communication and I'm glad we're diving head-first into the deep-end of the pool. The town square is back in fashion and this time it's virtual.

One other note on the F-22 crash. Please remember the family of Lockheed-Martin pilot David Cooley in your thoughts and prayers. David was 49 years old and a 21-year veteran of the Air Force.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Worldwide Reprise

Sorry I've been "off the net" for awhile. I have been a little busy as the Acting Director but I'll try to do better with posts starting now.

Writing is really about all I can do right now anyway. I just returned from the DiLorenzo Dental Clinic for my retirement appointment. They also fixed a broken tooth that cracked about a month ago. As you can see--not blogging--is not the only thing I haven't been able to take care of lately. Anyway, they shot me up pretty good and used every technique except leeches to fix me up. I'm still a bit numb but I'm sure that will wear off soon.

I'm still getting great feedback from folks who attended the Worldwide. It was great to see more than 300 motivated communication professionals getting even more motivated about their contributions to the Air Force. Secretary Donley said to me Tuesday morning how impressed he was to see the diversity in the room--all ranks and different specialties. That really got him jazzed before he took the stage Thursday afternoon.

We were very fortunate to have the Secretary and Chief of Staff speak at our conference. As I said during their introductions--they've given us a place at their table each morning for their daily spin-ups. They understand our mission, it's importance and they are active participants. And, I certainly appreciate every one's enthusiastic reception of our two top Air Force leaders.

I thought Col Woody Woodyard's briefing was simply outstanding. A PA professional who is now a sitting vice wing commander, talking to other PA professionals about getting through to the commander. There's no better credibility than that and Woody hit it out of the park and he received a well deserved Standing-O when he finished his talk.

We had a couple of great speakers that we brought in to talk about change and social media. Curt Garbett, with Spencer Johnson Partners--the company that brought us the best book ever on change--"Who Moved My Cheese," did a terrific job pointing out that change doesn't have to be a slog and that change important to stay productive. As communicators, our universe has changed dramatically over the last five years. We have to embrace the change now or we won't stay relevant.

Curt's talk was complemented by David Meerman Scott's presentation on the "World Wide Rave." As one colleague put it to me in an e-mail just yesterday, "This was a wake-up call for those that stuck their head in the sand with the merger, base papers, bloggers and any new technologies...get on board or step aside!!!" I couldn't agree more.

Mr. Al Black's presentation about our deployment situation opened about 660 eyes in the ballroom at the Dulles Hilton. His "dose of reality" I'm sure dispelled some myths about how we get people deployed. We work this hard every day here at the Pentagon and our career field is fortunate to have Alan Black working our issues.

I think our break-out sessions went well too. AFPAA's booklet on engaging in the social media realm is getting rave reviews. Check out this recent posting on the Buzz Bin.

Certainly, one of the major highlights of the week came Thursday when Secretary Donley formally announced that Col Les Kodlick will be our next director of Public Affairs for the Air Force. I've known Col Kodlick for many years. He's a great PA and an even greater person. The Air Force and our career field will be in good hands with Les in the lead.

Of course, another important factor of the Worldwide is the opportunity to reconnect and network with our colleagues. If the social engagements were any indication than I think that part of our conference was a resounding success.

It was a great week. I hope those who attended will take the lead in inspiring others about our great mission. We're more important to our Air Force than ever before and our brothers and sisters are relying on us to help them tell our story.

Monday, March 2, 2009

President Obama made a great decision late last week. He announced late Thursday that he's keeping on the Honorable Michael Donley as Secretary of the Air Force.

Secretary Donley, along with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Norton Schwartz, have been very effective over the last several months on focusing the mission and priorities of the Air Force while revitalizing our relationships with the Senate and Congress, OSD and the Army, Navy and Marines.

I was in the office of the OSD/PA when the White House press release was published announcing that Secretary Donley was staying on. I got a copy of the release and I walked down the 4th Floor E-Ring to let everyone know about the breaking new. To a person, the news was met with great gladness.

And, the Secretary and Chief understand and appreciate the communication mission. Their support of our mission has been staunch and they have been personally active in telling the Air Force story. Most recently they appeared together at the AFA symposium last week in Orlando. That media roundtable--mostly with trade reporters--helped clarify the way ahead for the AF budget and the F-22.

We're looking forward to their remarks at the Worldwide. I know they'll be motivating us as we continue to tackle tough issues in the months ahead.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

the Worldwide

I am truly looking forward to what us old-timers call "the Worldwide." It's our Public Affairs Professional Development Seminar scheduled for 17-19 March in Washington, D.C. Back in "the day" it was called the Worldwide Public Affairs Conference. We referred to it as simply "the Worldwide," and I'm glad that name has stuck through the years.

I don't have a problem living in the past but this Worldwide is dedicated to the now and the future. And, it has to be.

The theme of the Worldwide is Lead the Revolution. I've discussed before that we're somewhere on a continuum of a communication revolution that started in the early- to mid- 1980s. This Worldwide will embrace that revolution and hopefully we'll establish the foundation for how we'll research, plan, execute and evaluate our PA mission now and into the near future.

We'll be establishing the expectation of engagement for our PAs. We're pretty strapped for people across the board these days but we're going to help our PAs to do some things that are easy and fast and effective that will get them engaging more and more with their local communities and local media.

We'll give everyone a heavy dose of new media at the Worldwide. I actually believe the current technology in the communication revolution can make our job a bit easier, especially in these times of dwindling resources. We're all just a few clicks away from being connected with the world as more and more people start looking to the Internet to receive and pass information.

The timing is right for us. We finally have the capabilities in one place--Multimedia pros, Bandsmen, Broadcaster, Journalists--to craft products that are ready-made for now media.

I'm also looking forward to the Worldwide banquet. I hope we'll have several member of the Air Force Public Affairs Alumni Association at the banquet. I want them to see that they have left an endearing legacy of excellence and excitement about the communication mission. I know they will be impressed with all of our PA professionals.

Hope to see you at the Worldwide!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Personal

What is the face of the Air Force?

Your first thought might be a plane. Our technology and equipment have been major communication points down through the years. And, why not? We can all picture a squadron of
B-17s lumbering toward a target over Europe, or the F-15 Eagle dominating the skies over Iraq, or B-52s in Linebacker II bombing North Vietnam to the peace table and providing the sound and quake of hope to our POWs in Hanoi.

But the real face of the Air Force is Airmen. The word Airman is a proper noun just like Soldier, Sailor and Marine. Unfortunately, and I don't mean to be negative, we don't always get to shine the light on our Airmen and so we become just another face in the crowd.

Our Airmen have great stories to tell. Check out this NPR story by Tom Bowman on a Combat Search and Rescue mission in Afghanistan. The story centers around the fact that we've left no one behind in Afghanistan, dead or alive. This isn't a story about the Pave Hawk helicopter or the effectiveness of Night-Vision Goggles. Instead it's a look at how Airmen risked their lives deep in enemy territory to recover a Soldier that gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. That's the face of the Air Force.

Too often though we fail to get out of our own way. For example many Airmen are either forbidden or unwilling to use their full names when talking to reporters. That has kept us out of some national-level stories of late.

For example, USA Today reporter Tom Vanden Brook, on a recent trip to Afghanistan couldn't use quotes provided by Airmen because they would only provide call-signs. These were great quotes about how the Air Force avoids collateral damage and avoids killing civilians in air strikes. That story, an important one for us, didn't get told.

Airmen and their stories are our key to success in a global information environment that operates at the speed of heat. If the Air Force wants to be competitive then we have to make it personal.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What are we worth

My advice as a career Air Force Public Affairs Officer is to be "measured" in how we as a military service react to stories in the news. Unless it's dead-wrong or ridiculously sensational it's usually best to just leave it alone. However, I felt it necessary to comment on a recent piece about public relations in the Department of Defense. Now, this article had the bounce of a water balloon but it pains me when someone lumps mission areas into a loose confederation and then tries to make a story of it all.

AP reporter Chris Tomlinson published last week about how much money over the last five years the Department of Defense has spent on public relations. Its certainly a worthwhile effort to examine how the government spends it's money. However, the Tomlinson story is troublesome because the article paints recruiting and advertising, Psychological Operations and Public Affairs with the same brush. That makes for a bad picture. These missions are definitely separate from each other and they each deliver different results for America.

Recruiting and Advertising.
In FY08 the Army spent $283 million, the Navy spent $189 million, the Marine Corps spent $138 million and the Air Force budgeted $36 million and spent an additional $25 million on the "Above All" advertising campaign. That's a total of $671 million. It's a lot of money but according to the Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies group there are significant recruiting challenges:

*Only 12 percent of youth have a propensity to serve in the military--the lowest since tracking began in 1975 and 8 percent lower than 1999 when the Air Force last missed it's recruiting goal.

*Propensity of adults to recommend military service as employment for youth continues to decline.

*53 percent of youth ages 16-21 are ineligible for military service due to medical, moral, or legal reasons.

*Of the 26 percent of youth qualified for military service between the ages of 17-24 approximately 42 percent of those enroll in college within one year after graduating from high school. Since 1980, the number of youth enrolling in college has increased 35% and that trend is expected to continue.

*Only 5% of eligible youth age 17-24 not attending college have the aptitude for high-tech AF jobs, and the other services want them also.

This is an important mission that costs big dollars because the services have to go where the kids are these days--cable TV and the Internet. But, with some exceptions, that mission is virtually divorced from the traditional Public Affairs missions of the services.

Psychological Operations.
The Tomlinson article also included Psychological Operations with public relations. That's a loose fit at best. PSYOPs are conducted by specially trained people and units to ensure certain audiences get the truth. They are not done in the United States and they are not done, as a matter of course, by traditional Public Affairs Officers. I have worked with PSYOP experts in a couple of different deployed locations. While most of the time our messaging was the same, their means of delivering the message and their target audiences were different than mine.

Public Affairs.
The Tomlinson article states that the Defense Department will employ about 27,000 people for recruiting and advertising, PSYOP and Public Affairs. That may be true but he definitely didn't ask anyone how it's going in Air Force Public Affairs. Since 1989 we've lost 310 officers and 891 enlisted professionals. This personnel implosion has occurred while the global information environment has supernova'd. Today, we have well over 120 million blogs, news is quickly moving to the Internet and because of that breaking news happens at any time and it doesn't wait for the morning paper to hit your doorstep. That makes my job very challenging and today we have very few people to actually get the mission done.

I focus my efforts on the Air Force Public Affairs core competencies of Trusted Counsel to Leaders, Airman Morale and Readiness, Public Trust and Support and Global Influence and Deterrence. That's done through engaging Airmen, the public and the media so they can better understand our mission and how we protect the American way of life--including a free press. Tomlinson took a broad swing at the Army/Air Force Hometown News Service in his article. This organization lets people know in hometowns across America what their Soldiers and Airmen are doing to protect the nation. It's not propaganda.

It's a time of war Tomlinson points out. Americans deserve to know how their sons and daughters are prepared for it and how we are spending their tax dollars. What are we worth? If we can't do that in war time, then when can we?

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Top Ten

Below are the top ten things I have learned after nearly 24 years as an Air Force Public Affairs Officer. I hope there are some lessons that you can also use.

10. Never answer the phone after 3:30 on Friday--it can only be bad news.
I passed someone in the hall this morning and she said "It's Friday." That has a different connotation for me. Too many times in too many places the worst dilemmas have occurred late on a Friday afternoon when many of the "experts" we need to get help from have already departed for the weekend.

9. Every job is a PA job.
No matter where I've been, no matter what rank I am wearing, invariably people will come up to me and either say "I'm glad I don't have your job," or "I could never do your job." In fact, every Airman does my job. Just wearing the uniform communicates. The Air Force's best stories are about it's people. My job is to help them tell theirs.

8. The office symbol is PA not AP.
One of my biggest obstacles over the years has been getting Airmen I serve with in the same unit to talk to me about what they're doing. Many felt, because I was the PA, that I had a direct conduit to the media and that what they said to me would be quoted back in the morning paper. When I was the Chief of PA at Bitburg Air Base, Germany the fire marshal would always go silent when I walked up to his mobile command post during a Disaster Response Group exercise. He knew where the fire was but he never saw the light.

7. Questions don't matter, answers do.
We very seldom see or hear the question when we read a newspaper report or watch a TV news story. It's the answer that makes the story. This is one of my foundational points when I conduct media training for Airmen. Many are nervous about what questions a reporter might ask. For the most part I'm not concerned about the question. My goal, no matter the question, is to deliver a PGM--Precision Guided Message--so our real audience, the public, understands and appreciates our mission. We have to always be prepared with a message and know how to bridge to it no matter the question. We can't control the question; we have absolutely total control of the answer.

6. If you worry about it; IT won't happen.
This is somewhat counter to the faux self-actionalized people who like to say "Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff." What I've learned is that when your gut tells you something is going to be an issue then you need to start focussing on that possibility. If you can keep IT (whatever IT is) from happening then you've done your job. That doesn't mean bad news won't happen and won't be reported but you can keep that bad news from becoming an issue unto itself.

5. Routinely take the Page 2 test.
Base newspapers have what we call a Masthead and it's usually located at the bottom of Page 2. The Masthead shows the names of the people who are responsible for publishing the paper. Unless you're the Wing Commander your name isn't on top of the Masthead. My first mission as a PA is to provide trusted counsel to leaders. It's up to the leaders to take my advice. If they don't that doesn't mean I'm wrong and that they're idiots. It just means they want to go in a different direction. That's why they're leaders. State your case and then salute smartly. If you can't do that then you need to find something else to do with your life.

4. Separate your ego from your position.
This is a great lesson I learned from General Ed Eberhart when he was the commander at Air Combat Command. His point--not every battle is worth fighting. For those that are you may not win. It's not about you. It is about what's best for the Air Force.

3. How YOU react to a situation, dilemma, crisis or issue is a reflection of YOU, not the situation, dilemma, crisis or issue.
This is much easier said than done especially when we're tired and worn out because Air Force careers these days resemble a "sprintathon." Imagine having to run an entire marathon at a full-out sprint and your life depended on it. That's where we are. So each of us must rely heavily on those core AF values of Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellenc in All We Do.

2. If you want something done good and fast it takes two people; one to do it good and one to do it fast.
Sometimes we need things fast. That's ok, but it's rarely as good as it can be when you have the time to give it your best.

1. Perfection is the goal but most of the time good enough is better.
At some point you just have to pull the trigger. Give it your best shot!

Monday, February 2, 2009

We Need to Talk

This is probably what we call in the Air Force a BFO--a Blinding Flash of the Obvious--but how we communicate has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. We in the Air Force have some catching up to do.

For the last 18 months my stump speech on the speaking circuit to whomever will listen goes something like this:

*We're in a communication revolution that started in the early 1980s and is in afterburner in 2009. I don't know where we are in the life-cycle of this communication revolution but I do know that it's not over and some incredible things are on the horizon. The revolution started when we evolved from IBM Selectrics to word processors and eventually computers that linked us to the rest of the world. And, let's not forget the wall-bound telephone has given way to cell phones and now the iPhone which lets us connect with anyone, or anything, almost anywhere.

*Technology wrought from the communication revolution has dramatically changed how we receive information and how we pass that information on to others. Check out Jeff Greenfield's piece on CBS Sunday Morning that aired Feb. 1. Mr. Greenfield clearly and succinctly recounts the changes in the communication environment over just the last five years. He says the revolution has been so dramatic that the word "change" just doesn't do justice to describe what has taken place.

*The communication revolution has also caused the business of the media to change dramatically. For the last 18 months I've predicted that by 2015 there will only be four printed newspapers left in America: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the USA Today and the Washington Post. They're just too expensive to print and deliver and readers are going on-line to get the specific information they want from the sources they want to read. Just take a look at the Romenesko column and you'll see the media business is in dire straits.

The technology is designed to work for us. Gone are the days when we had to wait for the morning paper or the evening news to get caught up. Now we control what information we want to receive, when we want to get it, how we want to get it and we can pass it on to others we know are interested.

We have to make a few adjustments if the Air Force is going to stay "in formation" with regard to the changes in the communication environment. First, corporately we need to embrace the change. Many AF folks won't even be able to view the CBS news piece I linked to above because their work computers are blocked from accessing media sites. Secondly, Airmen at all levels must be armed with ROI--Rules of Information--so that they are cleared and available to engage the public. Thirdly, we in the Public Affairs career field need to merge our writing, video and photo capabilities and produce Internet-ready packages that communicate in ways the public wants to receive information.

The consequences are serious if we don't engage; our Air Force will be divorced from the national policy debate and others will define our capabilities and relevance.

The Air Force must have an enduring commitment to communicate with the public it serves. If they don't know, they won't care and we won't matter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What America Thinks of Us

There are some very telling statistics in a recent Gallup Military Perceptions 2008 poll that may affect recruiting over the next few years.

I am not surprised by the data because it mirrors research Air Force Public Affairs has seen over the last couple of years concerning those who would encourage young people to join the military services. The bottom line to the data in the Gallup survey is that parents and grandparents are extremely less likely these days to encourage their children or grandchildren to join a military service.

That's problematic because family support is critical to the success of a person serving in the military. Additionally, the pool of eligible 18-24 year-olds with a propensity to serve in the military has dwindled dramatically over the last few years. That means the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are competing hard for the same, small group of young adults who want to serve their country.

This trend didn't affect military recruiting in 2008 but it bares watching. If the economy gets stronger and parents and grandparents continue to downplay joining the military then we could have some recruiting challenges within a few years.

Meanwhile, this Gallup survey also revealed America's feelings about their military services. Americans viewed the Marine Corps as the most respected service with the Air Force placing a distant second in the survey.

Americans feel the Army is the service most critical to the nation's defense. The Air Force is second among most demographic groups surveyed with the Marine Corps either basically tied or in a very close third.

All the demographic groups identified the Air Force as the service in which they would most like to serve.

How Americans feel about their military services is extremely important to us. Their sons and daughters are handed tremendous challenges and great opportunities and we have to ensure they're well-trained, well-equipped and prepared for each.

Fortunately, we're still getting the best and the brightest and it's a great pleasure to serve with all of them.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New to the Pentagon

I had the opportunity to speak today with Airmen who are new to the Pentagon. They all go through a course called HAF (Headquarters Air Force) Orientation. Air Force Public Affairs is a standard on the schedule to brief these folks. For many it's their first tour and first time in the Pentagon.

I like to tell them that this is my third tour at the Pentagon since 2000 and that it's really a great place to work. The biggest challenge really--because of the insane traffic-- is getting to work in the morning and getting home at night.
I told them today that they're here at a very important juncture in the history of the Air Force and our country. With a Presidential Administration change you just never know what's going to happen next as far as the priorities of the new President are concerned. I shared with them that I'm encouraged by President Obama's new web site--especially that it's interactive--but that on today's site the Administration staunchly supported air power with the following comment: "We must preserve our unparalleled air power capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe, and support our ground forces."

The fact sheet on the President's site also states support for the C-17 cargo plane, unmanned aerial vehicles and for a new aerial refueling tanker. That's all good news for those of us who have been fighting the battles in the media about Air Force modernization.

I also told these officers and senior enlisted Airmen that they're here at the Pentagon because they are experts in their career fields. Truly, the Air Force needs their expertise now more than ever as we continue to ensure America's Air Force stays the most powerful air force on the planet.
The next couple of years should be interesting around here. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you in future posts. I also look forward to your comments.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Air Force Colonel to start blogging

This is the first post of a blog. It will contain posts from me, an Air Force Colonel in Public Affairs. My aim is to share my Air Force experiences with readers.